Wednesday, May 31, 2006


It's a beautiful night here in West Palm. Just a little while ago, I took the dogs out for a walk and was surprised to open the front door and step into breezy, comfortable air (rather than drenching humidity and blazing temps). The sky was clear and the stars were luminous. I didn't know what to pay most attention to: the stars radiating in the sky or their glittery reflection off the pond near my parents' place.

Like me, the dogs were delighted to be outside. Maggie, in her usual amiable frenzy, ran in every direction during our entire walk, twisting her leash around my legs, Murphy's legs, every tree we passed, and at times even her own body. On the other hand, Murphy, in his usual mellow state, just sort of plodded along beside me.

I was only outside for about 20 minutes, but they were 20 minutes of clarity and reassurance. While I was alternating my attention between the sky, the pond, the sound of night time in this place that is still somewhat new for me, the breeze which had only recently rolled off the Atlantic Ocean and made it's way the couple miles inland to where I walked at that moment, and all the things around me down here on the eastern coast of southern Florida, I became acutely aware of the fact that I was standing--quite literally--at the very edge of this enormous continent. It was at once humbling, soothing, and energizing.

By the time the dogs and I wandered back home, I felt more certain than ever that I will be ok, that I am ok now. Life has been weird and I haven't been very happy lately, but that's changing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another Great Work of Literature

Forgot to mention another noteworthy find at the bookstore today. As everyone knows, The Da Vinci Code has spawned its own sub-genre of books, either supporting, following up on, or trying to dispute the story. I still haven't been able to read the damn book, simply because I just can't get into it, so I have totally ignored all these spin-offs. However, on a display table near the check-out today, I noticed the most ridiculous Da Vinci Code-inspired book ever: The Diet Code: Revolutionary Weight Loss Secrets From Da Vinci and the Golden Ratio. Yes, what could become the latest diet craze is based on a work of fiction. The editors advertise this author as "the Da Vinci Baker" and compare him to Leonardo himself, refering to both as Renaissance men. This guy is actually trying to cash in on the book and movie by turning it into a weight-loss program!

Um, yeah... I think capitalism just hit rock bottom.

Maybe I'll write a diet book based on The Grapes of Wrath, where all it takes is being too destitute for even one full meal a day, as you trek across the country looking for a job. What a great way to lose weight!

Love the Book, Hate this Heat

Whenever I go to a bookstore, I always go to the 'W' section of Fiction/Literature to check for new books from either of my two favorite contemporary fiction writers: Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson. I love every word each of them has written, though they have very different styles. Well, today was the day I always hope for. While wandering around Barnes & Noble, I made my usual trip to the end of the alphabet and discovered to my total delight that Sarah Waters has just published a new novel, The Night Watch! I am so happy! I had already picked up a book of creative essays I wanted to read, but of course Sarah's book is a much higher priority for me, so I put the essays down and got The Night Watch instead (I simply couldn't justify spending money on two books today).

She usually sets her novels in Victorian England--which I think is the era of literature she focused on as a doctoral student--but this one is set during WWII, so I'm anxious to see how she handles a different era.

In a totally different vein, today is the first day since I arrived here a few weeks ago that the temperature is, in my opinion, completely unbearable. It is so freaking hot here today, and all I want to do is sit in front of an a/c vent, eating ice cream. My mom suggested that I go to the beach instead, but it seems too hot even for that. And anyway, I suspect she was just trying to get rid of me because of all my bitching about the weather. She'd never admit that, though. :) We're supposed to have a block-party sort of thing with a couple of my parents' neighbors this evening, which should be fun since they actually have cool neighbors. But I'd bet plenty of money that we all end up sitting in someone's living room, instead of outside, because no matter how used to hot weather these people claim to be, they are still human, and I don't see how any normal human being could possibly enjoy this heat and humidity. Ick.

However...I am not actually as cranky today as I sound here. Nothing can put me in a bad mood, because Sarah Waters has a new book out! Which I will begin reading tonight! Woohoo!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

It's Official

Yesterday I passed my Starbucks certification test with flying colors. Don't laugh; it's harder than it sounds. A couple other new employees failed theirs earlier in the week. My manager called out six random drinks for me to make, and she scored me from beginning to end, starting with how I mark the cup, make the drink, and present it to the customer. Again, when you're still new it's harder than it sounds. Plus, there's a verbal section of the test, where I have to answer about six pages of questions about everything from the company mission statement to opening and closing procedures. But I passed and am officially a barista now. Yay!!

By the way, I make the best raspberry latte and mocha frappuccino in town.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Transplants and More Coffee

It would be nice to say I'm adjusting to life in South Florida, but it wouldn't be true. But I am adjusting to some things. My job is fun and it gives me something to do everyday and people to talk to. I'm realizing that very few people are from this area; almost everyone here is a transplant from somewhere else, which fascinates me, as it means everyone had a specific reason for choosing to come here--a story. As it turns out, a number of people I've met at work and around town, like me, came down here at a time in their lives when nothing seemed to be working right, when they needed a break and to recharge their souls. Some, like me, chose this location merely because they have friends or family who offered support and not for any reason specific to Florida. Others just chose this area because they wanted to be far away from their old lives and close to the beach.

Maybe that will be my personal writing project this summer. Collect stories from people about what brought them here and why. Hmm. We'll have to see about that.

In the meantime, yesterday I learned how to work the espresso bar at Starbucks, which is the final step in training. They save it for the very end, as it is the holy altar of each store. Yesterday I spend a couple hours at the desk in the back memorizing the recipe for each espresso-based drink, and then the last couple hours I spent at the bar learning how to physically make each one. As long as I don't burn my hands off while steaming milk or pouring shots, I think I'll be ok.

I've honestly never had a job which required such thorough training. Not even when I was preparing to be a TA (to teach freshman composition) in grad school. But I don't mind. It's paid training, and I certainly feel better knowing what I'm doing, as I've learned that regular Starbucks customers know their shit, and if you don't know what they're asking for, they look at you like a small creature is crawling out of your nose.

Tomorrow is my "certification" test. Cross your fingers.

Sun Comes Up, It's Thursday Morning

I love the Cowboy Junkies. Really love them. And sometimes I forget why I love them so much. Last night I remembered. I love them because they make me happy. No, scratch that. I love them because they remind me how to find happiness myself. I don't know why, but I always feel recharged, empowered when I listen to them. They remind me of the me that I love and occasionally lose and have to find in order to survive on a daily basis. It's a combination of really good music, meaningful lyrics, and simply an association--for me--with basking in independence. I was not introduced to their music by anyone else. No exes in my past are the ones who said, "Hey, you gotta listen to them--you'll love 'em." So I don't think of anyone in particular when I hear their music, and they don't recall memories from any specific era of my life. Since college, their music has been my own personal soundtrack and has some bizarre ability to snap me back into an awareness of myself, a consciousness that reminds me of what I love, want, am, feel, taste, hear, say, think, and choose.

Their lyrics are often simple, but elegant and direct, and they usually have some sort of narrative. They always soothe me. Always. But sometimes I forget this. Last night I listened to my favorite of their CDs, 200 More Miles, from beginning to end (it's a double-length) for the first time in months, and I swear, I almost recognized myself again. There's one song in particular that always reminds me that I truly do love to be single, even when there is a bittersweet edge to that singleness. I used to listen to it a lot shortly after my divorce a few years ago, and I listened to it about 10 times last night and this morning. Again, the lyrics are simple, but they make me so happy.

Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning
Lyrics by Michael Timmins

Sun comes up, it's Tuesday morning
Sun come up, it's Tuesday morning
hits me straight in the eye
guess you forgot to close the blind last night
Oh, that's right, I forgot, it was me

I sure do miss the smell of black coffee in the morning,
the sound of water splashing all over the bathroom,
the kiss that you would give me even though I was sleeping,
but I kind of like the feel of this extra few feet in my bed

Telephone's ringing, but I don't answer it
'cause everybody knows that good news always sleeps till noon
Guess it's tea and toast for breakfast again
maybe I'll add a little T.V. too

No milk! God, how I hate that
Guess I'll go to the corner, get breakfast from Jenny
She's got a black eye this morning, `Jen how'd ya get it?'
she says, `Last night, Bobby got a little bit out of hand'

Lunchtime. I start to dial your number
then I remember so I reach for something to smoke
and anyways I'd rather listen to Coltrane
than go through all that shit again

There's something about an afternoon spent doing nothing
Just listening to records and watching the sun falling
Thinking of things that don't have to add up to something
and this spell won't be broken
by the sound of keys scraping in the lock

Maybe tonight it's a movie
with plenty of room for elbows and knees
a bag of popcorn all to myself,
black and white with a strong female lead
and if I don't like it, no debate, I'll leave

Here comes that feeling that I'd forgotten
how strange these streets feel
when you're alone on them
Each pair of eyes just filled with suggestion
So I lower my head, make a beeline for home
Seething inside

Funny, I'd never noticed
the sound the streetcars make as they pass my window
Which reminds me that I forgot to close the blind again

Yeah, sure I'll admit there are times when I miss you
Especially like now when I need someone to hold me
but there are some things that can never be forgiven
and I just gotta tell you
that I kinda like this extra few feet in my bed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Why do I keep thinking that if I let myself begin to heal and if I start to let go of the feelings she rejected from me, then she is the one who will feel better, not me? Everyday I get brief glimpses of myself without that pain, an occasional release from my anger and sadness, and I can breathe normally again. But then I imagine her saying something hollow like, "That's great. I'm so glad you're feeling better" and then my shoulders tighten again and the pseudo-hatred returns. I keep rejecting anything that might make her say or think anything positive. It's like a punishment, but in the end she is never the punished one.

That's so unhealthy. When, how will I learn to stop taking her reaction into consideration with anything I do, think, feel? And when, how will I stop reacting to her reactions? It's like a blister that I can't stop playing with.

This isn't me. This isn't how I behave or how I live my life; I've never acted like this in the past. Why this time? And why is it so hard to remove her from my daily existence, when she is hundreds of miles from me geographically, thousands emotionally?

The strength I need, the strength I've found before is in me somewhere. But I've found that it takes an entirely different kind of strength to search for it and bring it out. That's the hard part. I'll find it, even if it's a reluctant search, maybe it will eventually show itself to me.

In the meantime, I'll keep learning how to make new coffee drinks, walking my dog, talking to the people who do want to talk to me--the ones who don't make me feel bad. I guess this is the first real test of faith I've ever had: having total faith that life will someday have flavor again and that my smiles each day will be genuine and not a mask.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Coffee or the Internet? Apparently, more people would rather give up coffee than give up time online. Hmm. Not sure I could make that choice.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Unlike most people...

I have always wanted jury duty. Ever since I turned 18 and became a registered voter, I've waited to get that summons in the mail--but I never have. I've watched just about everyone else I know get theirs and then bitch mercilessly about it, but never me.

Well, I checked the mail yesterday--at my parents' house in South Florida of course, where all my mail is being forwarded by the post office--and what was sitting in there addressed to me??? A summons for jury duty in St. Louis! After I've moved away and can't do it!

Go figure.

Friday, May 19, 2006

After watching a re-run of my 2nd favorite AbFab episode...

I discovered a hilarious show called The Kumars at No. 42. Everyone else probably knows about it, but since I've lived without cable for three years now, I'm oblivious to most tv, other than the crap on all the regular networks. So the show is new to me.

The Kumars at No. 42 is funny as hell. I love it. I love cable. No, I hate cable. It's bad that I have access to cable now.

But it's soooo good that I can also watch Absolutely Fabulous again! Patsy and Eddy are the coolest. Speaking of which, I saw the play Mamma Mia last night (for the second time), and I definitely think the characters Tanya and Rosie were modeled after Patsy and Eddy.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tall, Grande, or Venti?

Today was my first day of training for my new job at Starbucks. There were two other new employees training with me as well, and they seemed pretty fun and I'm sure I'll like working with them. But I had an old-lady moment when I realized that one of my new co-workers was born in 1985, when I was in fifth grade. Holy crap.

Today was mostly about paperwork, really. You know, filling out tax forms and all that. We went over the company mission statement and some procedural things, however, the juicy stuff (coffee stuff??) will start at the next training session. We have nine days of training before we're "certified" baristas, and then I'll be able to make some kick-ass coffee drinks.

We also did our first official coffee tasting today, which is similar to wine tasting. There are four steps to tasting coffee:
1. Smell
2. Slurp (the louder, the better!)
3. Locate the experience on your tongue (Apparently this is related to the fact that different groups of tastebuds recognize different tastes, such as nutty, sweet, bitter, etc. So identifying where the coffee most strikes your tongue helps to identify more precisely the flavor. Cool, eh?)
4. Describe

Today we tasted Colombia Narino Supremo, which we discovered has a nutty but slightly sweet flavor and goes wonderfully with traditional coffee cake. Cool!

I can't believe how excited I am about this job, mostly because it's so different from the corporate career path I was on before. I hope that feeling lasts. I've worked in retail and customer service before and was horrible at it, which isn't surprising since I typically avoid too much interaction with people I don't know. And I always think the customer is wrong. However, I'm older, in a different place now and I'm trying different paths and new outlooks and new ways to focus my energy, and all this seems to contribute to a truly positive feeling about this.


Check back in after a month of me making coffee for an endless line of crabby people on their way to work. Wonder if I'll still be so positive. :)

What Would Leonardo Do?

Ok, ok, I'll read the damn Da Vinci Code. Gawd.

Certain people have been after me for months to read it, and I've been resisting just to be defiant. The funny thing is, I was interested in reading it until people started telling me how "brilliant" it is. So naturally the last thing I wanted to do then was read it. I admit; I hate liking what everyone else likes. It's a weird reflex I have and sometimes I stand by it, but other times I force myself to get over it and hop on the bandwagon, just for a quick ride. And occasionally the masses get it right (Harry Potter, for example).

Now, I already know the basic premise. You'd have to be in a coma not to, as it's being debated and analyzed like crazy right now, as if this book is the first time anyone has ever put forth some of the ideas in the Da Vinci Code. But of course, those ideas are not new and Dan Brown did not invent them himself. So that only leaves plot and writing style for me to explore...and I have a feeling I shouldn't expect brilliance there. Though, there's always the chance I'll be pleasantly surprised.

I read the first few chapters tonight, which isn't really enough for me to critique yet, so I'll wait until I'm further along to bitch about, I mean discuss the book.

Alright...I really will go into this with an open mind and not be such a literature snob.

I have to admit that part of why I'm giving this book a chance is because the Catholic church and Christian conservatives hate it, and that's reason enough for me. Anything that pisses off the church is cool with me.

Updates to come...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

a random post about food and paintings

My mom took me out to dinner the other day to a fun place with cool wall paintings on the patio.

Fun, aren't they? Made my eggplant lasagna taste even better.

Monday, May 15, 2006

my big fear

Couple days ago, my little brother Sam and his friend Frankie, found a snake down by the pond near my parents' place. For those of you who don't already know this, let met explain that I am horrified of snakes. Unbelievably so. It's not even rational and was probably one of my biggest (and most ridiculous) concerns when I decided to come down here. They are all over, and every moment I'm outside, I'm certain a snake is within striking distance and that I will be gobbled up anytime.

So when Sam announced they had found a snake, my instinct was to stand on the kitchen counter and shriek like a baby. But finally, I said to myself, "Heather pull your shit together and go at least take a picture of the damn thing."

And that's just what I did. I'm very proud of this.

So here it is:

Frankie, whose parents are divorced, asked his mom if he could keep it as a pet, and she said yes, but he has to keep it at his dad's house. Clever woman.

My new best friend

SPF 60. Sixty! And I still managed to get too much sun. I'm so pale, my aunt joked that she could stand next to me and get a lovely tan just from the reflection off my skin. That's fine, though, as I don't actually want skin cancer. I saw some woman on the beach the other day who was so brown (not as her natural skin tone) that she seriously looked like leather. Really dark leather. She looked like a giant melanoma. Gross.

sleepy and a little sunburned

I don't know what is wrong with me, but honestly all I've done since I arrived is sleep. I can't get enough of it. By 11pm, I'm ready to crash, and given the chance I usually sleep until at least 10. It's like someone has secretly been spiking my diet coke with nyquil. Today, for example, I've only been awake 20 minutes. And it's a little after 11am. And during the day, all I can think about is taking a nap.

All my relatives here say it's something about the climate, because they claim to have experienced the same thing when they all first moved here years ago. My mom thinks it's also due to the fact that I've been a stressed-out emotional wreck for ages now and that suddenly my mind and body have realized I can relax.

Regardless, I hope this goes away soon, as I'm not usually a sleepy person, and I hate not having energy.

However, I have had enough awake time this past week to do some fun things. For starters, I was hired to make amazing coffee on a full-time basis. I start training for the new job this Wednesday, and I'm super excited about this. In addition to getting a chance to meet lots of people, I'll also get a bunch of free coffee! woohoo. That should solve the sleepiness problem.

I also spent lots of time wandering around Lake Worth, which is an interesting, old area on the coast just a few miles south of downtown West Palm Beach (and where my family lives). It's a really cute area...lots of character, fun little shops, fabulous restaurants, and of course the beach--just a couple blocks from where this picture was taken. Like much of South Florida, many buildings have an art deco look.

I'm not normally a beach person, but I have to admit this is nice. Now, if I could just find someone to bring me a steady supply of cold Corona and lime while I'm sitting on the beach. Or margaritas . Or daiquiris.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Anti-Murphy

Perhaps the most entertaining part of this first week here is watching the dogs get used to each other. My parents have a black lab/border collie mix named Maggie, who is cute as hell, but none of us realized the extent of her border collie instincts until she met Murphy, the most docile and passive dog in the world. They get along great but are total opposites, and Maggie spends most of her time herding Murphy. My poor dog has spent most of the past week either trapped on the landing between the downstairs and upstairs, or pushed up agains the wall in the living room. Maggie seems to think they're only playing, since her tail wags like crazy the whole time. And actually, Murphy seems cool with it most of the time, too, as his tail wags constantly and he is being more playful than ever before. But Maggie is also bent on proving her dominance, though what she doesn't realize is that Murphy is perfectly cool with her being the dominant one of the pack. He has no desire to be top dog and has never shown the smallest amount of dominance toward any other dog or human. Well, I think Maggie's still pissed at him for peeing in her favorite spot in the grass. And who could blame her? That's just totally uncool.

This is Maggie. She's so cute.

Check out Maggie trying to get Murphy to play:

Murphy tells Maggie to step back:

It's fun to watch, but I make sure Murphy also gets plenty of time in our room with the door shut, so he can rest without contending with Maggie's never-ending energy. In fact, right now, he's on the floor next to me snoring like an old man, while Maggie is on the floor just outside our door, waiting for Murphy to come play. I'll have to tell her that Murphy has to stay in for the night and will come play with her in the morning.

The longest day ever

I spent Saturday night in Chattanooga before beginning the longest drive I've ever made. Got on the road just before 10 am and had to make it all the way down to West Palm Beach in one day. Northern Georgia was way more attractive than I remembered it...still in the hills with lots of morning mist.

Somewhere just south of Macon, I got off the highway and followed some country road for a few miles to an old gas station, where I filled up the car and took Murphy for a little walk.

Yes, I was walking in the middle of the street, but there were no moving cars for miles.

Then the rain started. It rained hard from Macon to the Florida state line, where it let up for a few minutes before pouring down again. Then, I stopped for more gas, somewhere in northern Florida, at some shack with a gas pump, a restroom, a soda machine, and a cash register (actually, it was more of a glorified calculator). I did my usual gas fill-up, dog walk, and bathroom break. But this time, something unfortunate happened. I was in the bathroom and was just about to flush, when somehow my driver's license and debit card fell from the back pocket of my pants into the toilet---before I had flushed. Lovely. I looked all over, hoping someone would have for some reason left a coat hanger I could use, but of course no such luck. So, yes, I had to reach in to fish them out and then take them straight to the sink and clean them off.

When I finally made it to I-95, just past Jacksonville, I encountered this:

It seems a wildfire was raging nearby, just off 95 a few miles up the road, and state troopers were detouring all cars off the highway so they could close a large strip of it. It would have been a frustrating detour, but thank god for the two Dane Cook CDs Kathy had given me to listen to. He's hilarious, and I'm sure the people in the cars around me thought I was nuts for laughing my ass off for hours of a hideous traffic jam.

Finally finally finally, hours later, after a 13-hour day on the road, I pulled into my parent's driveway in West Palm.

It was a long drive, and I was glad to be at my interim destination. Updates from my first week in Florida to follow...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Heading South: May 6, 2006

Because of a couple of technicalities and minor issues I won't go into here, the roadtrip I had planned for driving from Cincinnati to West Palm Beach happened in an abridged form. No trip through the Carolinas, no Dylan concert, no visiting my old pen pal from junior high and high school in South Carolina. But no worries; I have plenty of time for road trips this summer. Instead, I took the direct route from Cincinnati, straight down I-75, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and into Florida. And from there, over to I-95 and straight down the coast. It's a great drive, and I haven't done it since early college, so I enjoyed it thoroughly--for the most part.

I sort of held my breath all the way through Kentucky and sped past Lexington to avoid any emotional residue from my recent breakup (she lives in Lexington, and over the past year and a half, I've spent a lot of time there and fell in love with the whole area). Throughout that stretch, I focused on the road and tried to pretend Kentucky isn't actually as beautiful as it is. But there's no denying it; central and southern/south-eastern Kentucky are gorgeous. The hills which slowly become mountains calm me like few other places. Fortunately, this extends to eastern Tennessee and western Carolina as well, not just Kentucky. So if/when I ever live in southern Appalachia, I'm certainly not restricted to Kentucky. Asheville and Knoxville are currently competing for my top spot.

Which brings me to this blurry, though loaded image (emotionally loaded for me, anyway):

However, I soon enough entered Tennessee and was so relieved. As I said, the southeast does something to me, which I can't explain or understand. Why do I love it so much? That whole region has always--since I was a kid--created some incomparable peace within me. Right now is honestly the most tumultuous, confusing, unsteady time of my life. Yet the tension in my head and neck relaxed for the first time in weeks as I drove through the foothills of Appalachia and into the Smoky Mountains. I don't get my love for it, since it's such a conservative area, where I might not be such a welcome transplant. But I've stopped questioning my affection and just accepted it. Being there makes me happy, so who cares why.

I believe I could easily live in either Asheville or Knoxville and have a life I love. I'm not sure what I would do at either place, but I'm trying not to care about that right now. For now, I think environment needs to be more important to me than my career. Being in flat areas, like St. Louis, makes me anxious and exposed; I've always been uncomfortable about that aspect of living in St. Louis. It's more than simply aesthetics for me. Yeah, I think mountains are more attractive than flat land, but it goes beyond that and affects my well-being. Hills and mountains feel secure, protective.

To totally switch gears now, I'm going to display some human-made things I saw from the road that got my attention:

First, it's another creepy-ass cross, just like the one in Effingham, Illinois! But this one's in Tennessee! This one doesn't look quite as big, but it looks to be made from the same cheap aluminum sort of material as the other one. I wonder if they're affiliated in any way, or if two people or groups of people miles from one another had the same tacky idea simultaneously.

The Git 'n Go Market. Name says it all.

Where was all this money when I was a student?

The morning of my last full day in Cincinnati, I walked around UC's campus for a while. It had been almost four years since I'd actually gotten out of the car and wandered around there, and they've done some major renovations on campus since then. Wow. I barely recognize the place. Most of the trademark buildings are still there, like McMicken Hall, Tangeman Center, Swift Hall, etc. However, some have been totally gutted out and restored from the inside, so that only the exterior looks the same. In addition, there are a number of entirely new structures now on campus. It looks really really nice, and the current and future students have no idea how nice they have it. When I was an undergrad there, chunks of the ceiling in McMicken were perpetually falling in a couple classrooms and stairwells. Now, all the classrooms have new desks and computers. And Tangeman, which was once little more than a Dunkin Donuts, surrounded by a serious of large rooms full of crappy old sofas, now has a food court, beautiful new furniture throughout, a movie theater, works of art randomly stationed, and who knows what else. It's very cool.

McMicken Hall:

The English Department hallway inside McMicken (this '70s-era-high-school-resembling hallway clearly has not been renovated):

Tangeman Student Center:

A corner of Swift Hall, with a bunch of new stuff around it:

Nippert Stadium with a minor facelift:

More from May 4, 2006

Here is a view of Over-the-Rhine and downtown from Mt. Adams:

(Alternately, check out Over the Rhine, for some super cool music.)

Next, I headed back to the west side and drove past Mother of Mercy, where I went to high school.

I still shiver as I drive past Mercy. This picture was taken shortly after school had ended for the day, and if you look closely, you can still see a few students hanging out on the front steps---I had this urge to tell them to run, run now!

In the meantime, back at Kathy's house, Murphy and Kathy's dogs, Milo and Olive (cuter-than-hell Boston terriers) were hanging out:

That night, Kathy and I hit a number of bars, one drink at each one. She seemed to think there was a bar in East Walnut Hills named the Oar House, which we both thought was hilarious. So we drove around for ages trying to find this place. Eventually, we drove past a bar called the Brew Haus, and I guess her memory was suddenly jogged because she instantly realized that she had totally invented this Oar House place and in fact had all along been thinking of this Brew Haus instead. It was a totally bizarre place. First, let me say that this neighborhood is not one where the likes if Kathy and I would normally be very welcome, and the outside of the bar made me think it might be a strip joint, rather than your average bar. There were no windows anywhere, and the door was conspicuously inconspicuous. We entered with trepidation, not sure what we'd find. However, it was nothing like what we imagined. Against the back wall, were a couple of crusty, old, hardened looking people who were all smoking perhaps their 378th cigarettes of the day. In the middle was a table of kids who had somehow wandered too far from the campus of Xavier University. They were clearly more innocuous than they thought they looked, but they chose good music for the jukebox, and we overheard a few funny bits of dialogue, so we didn't mind them so much. While checking out the other people, we had been sitting at the bar for a good five minutes without anyone coming to take our order. And, no, they weren't busy. There was nobody else up at the bar, but there was also no bartender in sight. Finally, someone unexpectedly stood up from a desk that had been hidden between the end of the bar and a wall, where when someone sits down, they disappear from sight. So this totally non-bartender looking bartender stood up and said to himself, "Oh, people came in."

After we ordered, some other guy--an older man--came over and introduced himself as Tony the Candle Man. Turns out, he sells soy candles. No, he doens't own a shop or anything. He carries a huge suitcase full of a bunch of soy candles, which he carries with him everywhere in case he can make a sale. Evidently, he makes a killing there at the Brew Haus, as the bartender knows him well and does his Christmas shopping from Tony the Candleman. Tony let us smell every single flavor of candle in his case, and I must say, he had some nice candles. I didn't buy any, but Kathy did.

I would be remiss to not mention that one candle was called "Butt Naked." One of the college kids at the Xavier table bought that one, and his friend picked it up, smelled it, and said, "Yeah, that totally smells like butt naked."

Another candle was called "Birthday Cake," which Tony seriously refers to as "Birfday Cake."

After Kathy and I each finished a white russian, we got up to leave. As we walked to the end of the bar, we noticed a semi-alert older woman sitting all hunched over her drink, looking less-than-thrilled with life and totally oblivious to everything around her. She looked up, scowled, and said to the bartender, "Why does it smell like birthday cake in here?"

Oh, and the other odd thing about Brew Haus is that they offer free wireless, courtesy of Rolling Rock beer:

Because everybody brings their laptops to the local Brew Haus to have a few beers and do their online banking...

Here are shots from some other bars that night:

Here we are at a bar in Mt. Adams, where the bartender honestly didn't know how to make a martini. She thinks she knows how to make a cosmo, but trust me, that was not a cosmo.

May 4, 2006

Kathy and Rick both had to work, so I had all day to wander around the city and revisit old stomping grounds. And of course to eat more Skyline. After lunch, I wandered around Ludlow, which is a where a lot of cool shops and cafes are located. First I went to Sitwell's, which was my favorite coffee house in college and where I did a majority of my schoolwork as an undergrad. It was in this basement sort of thing (it was once called the Cove, which pretty accurately describes what it looks like). I loved this place, as it was your typical dark, dank, slightly messy, bohemian looking coffee joint, which is my favorite kind of establishment....perfect for sitting alone in a corner and observing, though not necessarily interacting with, other people. So I'm thrilled that Sitwell's still exists, however, they've moved to a new location about a block from their old location, and it's just not the same. It's still cool enough and has a lot of those coffeehouse traits I love. But I miss the old cove. Regardless, I went to Sitwell's for coffee and some journal time. It was lovely. I also took some pictures of Ludlow (though somehow it slipped my mind to get a shot of Sitwell's----duh).

This is the Esquire movie theater, which shows mostly independent films. It's a gorgeous old place.

Here's a cool florist I've always loved. I don't actually think I've ever bought flowers there, but I love that it exists and has purple walls!

Next, I went to my old apartment in Eden Park. It's on the third floor of a great old house, and if you look out the front window of the apartment and stand on your toes, you can see the river!

Next, I went further into Eden Park and up to Mt. Adams and took some pictures of the city from a few choice overlooks. Back in the day, my ex-husband (then fiancee) and I used to walk from this apartment, through Eden Park and up to Mt. Adams to UDF for a cherry cordial ice cream cone and then go sit at one of the overlooks and talk about how pretty we thought the view was. I like these memories.

This looks over the river at the Big Mac Bridge (I-471 Bridge)

Some houses in Mt. Adams in the foreground with downtown and the river in the background: